PR: What Not to Do: Websites Lacking Key Information

I don’t know anything about comic publisher Bluewater Productions, so I was interested when I got a press release from them listing their planned titles for 2008. (I ignored the headline, which was labeled “2007”, as a sloppy error.)

Since it’s hard to know when someone is promoting female-lead titles whether they’ll be good reads or boobalicious eye candy, I promptly popped over to their website to find more information and images. Guess what? There’s no information on any of the titles there. There are many other problems as well.

First off, don’t play music at me when I visit your site. It’s annoying.

Next, why is your release announcing major plans for this year hosted on a third-party networking site? Your material needs to be in one location under your control.

For another thing, what’s with all those “Artist(s): TBD” on the publication list? Why are you announcing plans when you don’t have any art yet, let alone even know who’s going to be drawing it?

But the key lesson here is this: Every comic publisher should have on their website at least a page for each of their titles, covering the basic premise, the creators, and sample art. Release information (which issues are out? how often is it published?) is also good to include. If you can’t even bother to put up that information (giving only a cutesy coming soon logo), instead wasting your time on setting up CafePress stores (that give the error message “The page you are looking for may have been renamed, moved, or deleted.”) and talking about TV and Film. It gives the wrong impression of where your focus is.

It’s a shame that they haven’t got the basics down, because they’re making some good attempts at market outreach, with tie-in comic samples on upcoming DVDs. They have some kind of deal with special effects master Ray Harryhausen to do comics expanding on some of his movies, currently being re-released on home video.

14 Responses to “PR: What Not to Do: Websites Lacking Key Information”

  1. Tim O'Shea Says:

    When you do posts like this, there’s quite often an update where someone from the critiqued party contacts you…and more context is brought to the picture.

    But my question to you: if you take the time to get annoyed and take the time do a write up of it to classify this publisher under the “Stupid Publisher Tricks” banner, how hard would it be to email one of the folks on the “Contact us” page?

    I think it would be far more constructive to point out the things that annoyed you to the person who was annoying you and get some feedback. It could become a variation on TLC’s “What Not to Wear”–“How Not to Market.”
    That being said, if I think it’s so great an idea I can do it at my own blog and not tell you how to run yours. :)

    A fair counterpoint to my suggestion of course: “I don’t have the time or interest to contact them.”

    And if that’s the case, and the marketing is so poor, why give them the attention and link to a site that plays annoying music when you go to it?

    I don’t have a dog in the Bluewater hunt, but I was slightly bewildered at putting a strike against them for using Comic Space (and your intentional avoidance of naming Comic Space and referring to it nebulously as a third-party networking site [I was really hoping you it meant they had marketed on e-harmony or…). There are many Fortune 500 companies who use Business Wire to promote their announcements, I just viewed this use of Comic Space as a variation.

    I respect your idea of all content controlled by you and under your banner, but with that thinking, all of us should never link-blog really. :)

  2. James Schee Says:

    On the other hand Tim, perhaps by doing it publicly like this. Some other creator/publisher goes “Hmm, never saw it from that angle before. I’ll make sure our site doesn’t do this.”

  3. Johanna Says:

    Tim, to address your first point, I don’t do free consulting. :) Seriously, Bluewater is only one of many many companies where this is a problem, so it makes more sense to use them as an illustrative example for a wider audience, as James points out.

    If you want to do something similar, only posting after you’ve gotten a response, please, go ahead. We can have a pool on how soon it will be before you get a nasty “how dare you tell me how to run my business” answer. :)

    As for the third-party site: having recently done a cleanup on two years’ worth of posts, I am very aware of how little control one has over someone else’s URLs. It’s not a strike on ComicSpace, but recognition that you should put content important to you on a site that you can control and maintain. That’s not the same as linkblogging.

  4. Derek Coward Says:

    I had the same type of problems with their site. Back in November, they made a few promises about fixing the issues I brought up, but it looks like it was just lip service.

    At least they went from giving off 403 errors to a Coming Soon page.

  5. Tim O'Shea Says:

    Johanna, point taken, if I ever do the feature it will be called “Trying to Tick Off the Misguided Publisher” :)

  6. Ray Cornwall Says:

    I’ll go you one further, Johanna.

    Being bored yesterday, I stared researching my pre-order for February. I do this in the most laborious way possible- I work through the Previews text file that I get from my comics supplier, I paste it into a Word doc, and delete anything I don’t think will interest me. If there’s work by a creator that I like, or something I’ve heard buzz on, I’ll keep it on this list at this point.

    I usually end up with about a superset of about $5-800 worth of graphic novels for the month. I can’t afford this much, so I start doing deeper research through Google.


    And this isn’t just for little guys like Bluewater. Slave Labor, a publisher who should know better, doesn’t have any info on some of the books it’s listing for sale this month! I don’t even think Sirius, a company that’s been around for years, has a website despite new listings for Poison Elves material. Rick Veitch’s King Hell hasn’t updated since 2004 on, but lists a new book this month. IDW’s page has no info on the fourth Dick Tracy book. Vertical has no info on the new Tezuka book. Viz has no info on the new Hikaru No Go book.

    I’ve heard plenty of publishers complain that most retailers won’t touch the “back of the book”. But how about supporting those of us that do read the back of the book? Is it that much to ask that you put up some info on books you’re soliciting in the Diamond catalogue during the ordering window?

  7. Johanna Says:

    Excellent point. You need to provide the information customers are looking for when they’re likely to be looking for it.

    Then there’s the New York Con ad in the latest Previews that lists an update blog at a domain that’s currently parked and contains no content. Not quite the same thing, but also annoying.

  8. Pitzer Says:

    After a google search pointed me to a thread where there were very good suggestions as to what publishers SHOULD be doing with previews, I updated my site with links to either online previews or ones that could be downloaded. Granted, I already had links to these things under “links” but having them close to the product makes it a bit easier for the consumer.

    There’s always room for improvement.

  9. Lyle Says:

    Ray, as I recall Viz is amazingly slow to update their website. I remember once wanting to write about a series being previewed in the latest Shojo Beat but I wanted to verify something that sounded strange (IIRC, the title was a one-volume one) by the time that information was on their website, the issue had been out for three weeks.

    On a similar note, last friday morning I went to Bravo’s website (which I frequently complain about for flash bloat) to see what they were airing on Super Bowl sunday… I got a database error message. At that point, I could only laugh. I was writing my weekend TV guide and thought they might have something to recommend, but if they can’t get that information out, I can’t help them.

  10. badMike Says:

    I wonder what kind of “internet budgets” these small publishers have. Not having the budget to have an internet guy on staff is probably what causes their sites to be lacking in content.

    My assumption is that they would think they need a flashy website at first, hire a freelancer to build one for them, but then not have the resources to fully populate it with content.

    It does seem like common sense and relatively simple to put a cover scan and a synopsis on a website, but if one doesn’t take the time to learn how to do that oneself and either can’t get a freelancer to respond to an updating request or don’t have further budget to pay someone to do updates, I assume that all can be a real pain in the butt for a struggling publisher.

  11. Alan Coil Says:

    As someone mentioned Sirius, I have a similar complaint with Sirius Radio. (For info purposes, they are not connected to Sirius the publishing company.)

    I had a rental vehicle for 4 days. It had Sirius Radio, but there was no list of stations. I tried to find a list on the Sirius Radio site, but couldn’t get the page to open. I finally found a list at Wicked-pedia, but it was slightly wrong.

    So it’s not just comics companies that have deficient sites or info available.

    How can people who are smart enough to own a company have such a shortcoming on the internet?

  12. Johanna Says:

    Mike, good point. And lots of people get distracted by looks, forgetting about content behind it. I know I’ve been a part of projects in my day job where everyone gets so caught up in the launch date that they forget to plan for the weeks and months ongoing after.

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